Rev. Bernard M. Tracey, C.M., Executive Vice President for Mission, celebrated the Mass, which also marked the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. Rev. Michael Whelan, C.M., S.T.D., Associate Professor, Theology and Religious Studies, offered the homily. Concelebrants included Vincentians from the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission. The Staten Island campus held an Anniversary Mass on January 26.
It was in 1617, in the village of Folleville, France, that St. Vincent de Paul was moved to action by the spiritual and material poverty around him. On January 25 of that year, Vincent delivered a sermon there that is considered the beginning of his mission.
Months later, Vincent encouraged people in Chatillon, another village, to care for a family that needed aid. Witnessing the response, he determined that charity must be organized. Over the past 400 years, Vincent’s followers have acted upon that insight.
“The significance of the 400th anniversary,” Fr. Tracey explained, “is not only about a global Vincentian family celebration of all that has been accomplished. Rather, the year-long observance is a reminder that we still have more work to do, and that we are all called to serve the poor wherever we are—to work for systemic change for those most in need.”
Rev. Patrick Griffin, C.M., Executive Director of the Vincentian Center for Church and Society, observed that on the same day as the Feast of St. Paul, “The Congregation of the Mission recalls what Vincent termed ‘The First Sermon of the Mission.’ Like Paul’s conversion, it too was a life-changing event. On January 25, 1617, Vincent preached that homily—and so we honor its 400th anniversary.”
Students at St. John’s gain real-world experience by following Vincent’s example. “We strive to tackle the world’s greatest injustices by taking action,” stressed Katharine Sheldon ’19P. “When I came to St. John’s, I found myself searching for ways to impact the world around us. I’ve developed a strong connection to the poor and marginalized by going on service trips that have shaped who I am.”
“The Vincentian charism has opened my eyes to many new perspectives and ideas,” said Anarita Lynch ’17C. “In the St. Vincent de Paul Society, we emphasize the importance of reflection after our service activities. It allows us to understand the meaning of our service, and we can recognize the impact we have had on others.”